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Mavis Cheek #DogDays Blog Tour

I’m delighted to welcome Mavis Cheek to the blog today. Mavis is the author of sixteen novels and she’s joined me today to chat about Dog Days, the second one to be reissued as an ebook by Ipso Books. Dog Days is a novel about a woman who quits an unhappy marriage and starts over with her young daughter and Brian, the doggy Dad substitute she’s agreed to buy her. I cheered, laughed, cringed, winced and chuckled my way through it as Patricia attempts to manage her new life, home and job with well-meaning friends setting her up on dates, the neighbour’s monster rabbit, Bulstrode, proving irresistible to Brian and Patricia, despite all the progress she makes and intelligence she possesses, singularly failing to read some people and social situations. It’s full of truths and sharp observation about life and dating post-divorce but it’s told with plenty of warmth and humour.   

Hello Mavis, and welcome. We’re usually all about the squirrels here at Nut Press but in honour of Dog Days being released, let’s talk Dog. And specifically Brian. He’s almost a doggy antihero. What made you choose him for your family?
Brian was a comic device for the story – and I enjoyed writing about him – as you say – he became almost a person – certainly a character – and it was nice writing about someone who was even more downtrodden than Patricia. Those anti-characters are great fun to invent.

Patricia freely admits to not being a dog person and only gets Brian because her ten-year-old daughter Rachel asks for a dog to make up for her parents’ divorce. Do you think she protests too much and is a dog person at heart, in the same way that she tries to persuade herself that she’s happier on her own with only Rachel and Brian for company, when in fact she’s a more sociable being than that?
I think Patricia is exactly like me – thinks she’s not a dog person but is always the one who ends up holding the mutt’s ear and stroking their nose and being kind to them. When my daughter and her boyfriend came to stay with their dog, dog and I would be sitting in the kitchen at some ridiculously early hour, me with tea, he with a mournful look, and I’d just hold his ear. And my dog walking friend arrives with her dog who promptly sits on my foot and gazes at me in rapture. It’s very seductive. Read more

Untouchable Things Blog Tour: Interview with Tara Guha

I’m thrilled to welcome author Tara Guha today to talk about her debut novel. Untouchable Things is an excellent if unsettling psychological thriller about a disparate group of people brought together by an enigmatic host who stages themed soirées for them all. It was the winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary in 2014 and is published by Legend Press.

Hello, Tara, lovely to have you here!

Hello and lovely to be here!

Untouchable Things is such a great ensemble piece about these people, who meet as the Friday Folly: but can you tell me where it all started? Was it with an idea you wanted to explore or did one or more of the characters pop up, demanding that their story be told?
I think the idea and the character of Seth arrived hand in hand and are in a sense two sides of the same coin. I wanted to examine the impact of a highly charismatic person on a group of people, and through that explore the workings of groups themselves. What parts of myself do I need to hide to be accepted into a group? How far would I compromise my own values to remain in a group? So I suppose the true answer is that the idea was the driving force, and Seth the means of executing it.

In many ways, it feels as if Seth auditions each member of the Friday Folly, but how did you assemble your cast of characters?
Hmmm, it’s almost ten years since I started writing Untouchable Things and I’ve lived with these characters for so long it’s hard to remember that somewhere along the line I imagined them into existence! Rebecca came along very early, as did Michael: one character who is glad to get swept into Seth’s orbit, and another who struggles hard against it. Almost all the characters started with a predominant character trait, and from that I fleshed out their backstory and worked out how hard I could push them. Lots of people ask me if the characters are drawn from life; the answer is that there is some of me in almost all of them (Jake perhaps being the exception), along with a mish-mash of character traits I’ve encountered over the years – and a healthy dollop of imagination. Read more

Author Interview: Stephanie Butland #TheOtherHalfofmyHeart blog tour

My guest today is author Stephanie Butland whose wonderful first novel Letters to my Husband I reviewed hereToday Stephanie’s stopping off on her blog tour for her second novel, The Other Half of My Heart, which came out last Thursday. Here’s what it’s about: 

“It smelled bittersweetly of sourdough, and there was the trace of hot, fresh bread in the air. She took a deep breath and unlocked the door”

Fifteen years ago Bettina May’s life’s veered off course in one disastrous night. Still reeling from the shock of losing everything she thought was hers, Bettina opens a bakery in a village and throws herself into the comfort of bread-making.
She spends her days kneading dough and measuring ingredients. She meets someone. She begins to heal.
Until someone who knows what happens that night walks into Bettina’s bakery. In the pause of a heartbeat, fifteen years disappear and Bettina remembers a time she thought was lost for ever . . .
Can she ever go back?

Welcome to the Nut Press, Stephanie, and congratulations on book two!  
Thank you! It’s lovely to be here.

Second novels can be notoriously troublesome for their authors. Did The Other Half of my Heart cause you any heartache along the way, and how did you deal with this?   
It was a little bit tricky – but largely because I did the equivalent of starting your homework at 10pm on a Sunday night… I’d done a lot of research and thinking – but I sat down on 1 January with 13,000 words and a deadline of 1 March! I wrote 50,000 words in January and although it was brilliant, in many ways, I won’t be writing a book that way again.

The main character in your book, Bettina, opens a bakery which goes some way towards helping her recover from a traumatic event in her past. There’s something about the smell of freshly baked bread, and the process of breadmaking itself, the kneading of it and allowing it to rest in between times, before it (hopefully) rises in the oven, which makes it a wonderful comfort food. Was this behind you choosing a bakery for her?
Absolutely. At an early stage I went to see a baker named Andrew Smith (www.breadandroses.co.uk) and as he talked about bread I understood that it was much more than something you mix up, put in the oven and eat. A loaf of bread is an ancient alchemy of flour, salt and water; the making of it is an ancient act, even if you do use a mixer! Bettina needed to heal, and she needed to be patient, because she was never going to heal quickly. Bread saved her in a way that nothing else would have.
Read more

Author Interview: Helen Lederer #HelensLosingIt Blog Tour

Welcome to the final stop on Helen Lederer’s Losing It Blog Tour! You’ve read the review, Losing It was launched last Thursday and is currently out in the world in a bookshop near you, so now it’s time to talk to its author. I’m thrilled to welcome the lovely Helen Lederer to the Nut Press today.

I now know which Millie favours but what about you, Helen: Margarita or Mojito, followed by a bottle of wine, or no messing around and straight to a bottle of wine? Mojito can be festive and slow down the inevitable graduation to a bottle of plonk when one starts realising the cost of the individual cocktail and the item taken to get the pith of a fruit into a glass… give me the WINE!

Millie has an humiliating episode in a hotel lobby thanks to some shapewear. Should we squeeze ourselves into those things, or let it all hang out (while still being fully dressed, obviously!) and embrace the bodies we have? Well a certain ballast underneath a dress for evening wear can enable getting out of the house at times? But I say no to the girdle on top of waist clincher and corset… what if one was in a car accident – what would the paramedics make of it all? Read more

That Dark Remembered Day Blog Tour

One family, one town, devastated by one tragic event.

Can you ever know what those closest to you are really capable of?

When Stephen gets a phone call to say his mother isn’t well, he knows he must go to her straight away. But he dreads going back. He has never been able to understand why his mother chose to stay in the town he grew up in, after everything that happened. One day’s tragic events years before had left no one living there untouched.

Stephen’s own dark memories are still poisoning his life, as well as his marriage. Perhaps now is the time to go back and confront the place and the people of his shattered childhood. But will he ever be able to understand the crime that punctured their lives so brutally? How can a community move on from such a terrible legacy?

I’m thrilled to welcome Tom Vowler to the Nut Press today as part of the blog tour for his brilliant second novel, That Dark Remembered Day, which I reviewed here. If you’re still looking to add to your summer reading, it’s definitely worth including. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

I need to head off to the pavilion to make the teas, so I’ll hand over to Tom now… Read more

Kim Curran GLAZE Blog Tour

It’s Day Two of the GLAZE Blog Tour and I’m thrilled to be taking part by posting my review of Kim Curran’s latest book, GLAZE.

Set in a slightly future London, GLAZE is a thrilling and thought-provoking read and one I’d recommend, especially if you’re a regular user of any social network. Why?

Because GLAZE is a futuristic social network that everyone wants to be hooked up to, not least the heroine of GLAZE:

Petri Quinn is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.

Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.

As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.

Read more

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